Facebook Saints and Mobsters

gold shoes and sandal close to petra cliff edge by evathedragon 2013

My photo collection began after my grandmother gave me my first Kodak Instamatic camera.  Processed at the drive-through Foto-mat, a lifetime of pictures are mounted in albums with sticky backs and plastic covers.  Stored in our spare bedroom closet, the photos have faded but you can still tell who the characters are.

They are my personal treasures – both for the memories and for their value.  Half-jokingly, I have threatened my friends with,

“If I ever find out someone says something rotten about me, I will post these to Facebook.”

While in Jordan, I found a kindred spirit in our young, Bedouin guide, Mazan.

After my friend loaned her camera to him, his professional demeanor dissolved into a child’s joy. He scampered around the cliffs recording choice moments for digital posterity.

petra cliff walking by eva the dragon 2013

Joumaa conned Louise into crossing a tiny ledge along the Petra cliffs.  She cursed and nearly fainted but made it across.  When we stopped to regain our composure, Mazan nudged my elbow and asked for my camera.  I could not tell what he was looking at but I figured it must be interesting.

He started snapping photos, then shouted something in Arabic.  I recognized one word – Facebook.

“What do you see?” I shaded my eyes and squinted.

balcony scene from petra version romeo and juliet by evathedragon 2013

He placed his hands on my ears and moved my head.  Across the canyon, like Romeo and Juliet, two, star-crossed, Bedouin teenagers, sat alone on top of the cliff.

Mazan took more photos and shouted again, “something, something, something Facebook.”

Facebook is going to turn all of us into either saints – or mobsters.

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The Land of Shared Ancestors

“You want to see my cave?” asked our Bedouin guide, aka Mr. Friday.

Had we not already established a trust, his proposal would have sounded like a proposition.

“Yes, we’d love to,” cooed the three women.

We climbed up a small slope and voila, there in the rocks was Juomaa’s front door – locked against wandering bandits.

“Here is where we kept our fire,” he said pointing to a small pit with ink-colored sand stained by the ash.  “Here is where our cousins slept.  The men here.  The women there.  And over here was the cave the tourists slept.  They used to come up here and we would offer them hospitality.”

The bedroom-sized caves must have been cramped when all the cousins slept over.  I imagined there was a lot of giggling at night.

“At the bottom of this canyon is Haroun’s orchard,” said Juomaa.  As he looked over the site, he sighed.  “I loved living in the caves.”

Without their inhabitants, the caves were not homes, and there was little else to see inside.

Outside, the multi-colored stone was brilliant orange as the sun dropped.  To the right of his front door was a stunning view of the Monastery.

We stood enjoying a quiet anyone living in a city has never heard.  The desert is a place where life is pared down to the bare minimum.  You get enough water to survive – with nothing to waste.  You eat to fill your belly; no left-overs that might spoil.  Your possessions must fit on your back or your donkey’s.  Your entertainment is Nature’s round-the-clock exhibition of her array of colors.  The air was fresh, tinged with the freedom of living without masters.

“I could get used to living up here,” my friend said.  “I don’t think my husband would like it.”

“No CNN or A/C, mine would complain,” I said.  “But I feel free.”

“It is gorgeous.  I can just imagine sitting around the campfire, telling stories and watching the stars,” Louise said.  Her eyes had gone dreamy again.

It was a pity we were unable to enjoy the Bedouin hospitality, but the sun waits for no woman.  If we wanted to end our day in true Thelma and Louise style, then we had to get to the cliff at the top of the world.

Many signs pointed towards the canyon’s lip.

Climbing the mountain, we rushed towards the edge, but our donkey stopped just in time.  Regardless of what anyone else wanted, he refused to take that last step.

Maaz stopped to lean against a fence made of sticks.  My mother’s heart stopped.  My friend encouraged him to step away by asking him to take her photo.  Soon, he was leaping around like a mountain goat snapping shots our stomachs could not endure.

“Over here,” called Juomaa.  Taking off his sunglasses, he squinted and pointed west to some distant spot where his camels grazed.  “Wadi Araba, my winter home.  It is warmer there.  Araba is the real desert.”  He turned and pointed south.

“See the white roof on the top of that mountain.  That is Aaron’s Tomb.  In Islam, we believe Aaron was a prophet and a priest like his brother Moses.”

IMG_1037 aaron cave petra jordan by eva the dragon 2013

My great-grandfather’s name was Aaron,” I told him.  Suddenly the pieces came together.  “His grandfather’s name was Eleazer.  In the Old Testament, Eleazer was Aaron’s son.  Very curious,” I said, watching the sun set.  “It all feels so familiar and comfortable.  This is truly our shared ancestral land.”

“Welcome home,” said the smiling Juomaa.

To be continued….

ABOUT JUOMAA KUDBLAN THE PETRA BEDOUIN GUIDE

Juomaa Kudblan, Mr. Friday, was a man we instantly felt comfortable with.  His mobile is 00 962 7 7753 5425.

You can arrange to meet him at the Petra entrance, or, if you are lucky, arrange to meet him at Haroun’s for a sunset trip to the Monastery.  He charged us each 50JD for our four-hour tour.  His rate matched the rates quoted on Frommer’s.  His donkey were well-cared for, and he is a kind, stable individual.

Spoiler Alert: The Sun Will Rise Again

Dawn at GMT+3

Dawn at GMT+3

Mojo, Ace, Mark, Susan and I greeted the dawn of the new age at 6:21, GMT+3.

This, actually, was not the easiest thing to do, not because we had to dodge zombies, but we had to find a beach on this island.  Knowing we had to leave early in the morning, I did not want to discover en route that we could not find an empty beach to stop at.  Yesterday, I spent a couple of hours scouting out a spot on the eastern side of the island.

Secondly, I had to convince the troops to go.  Last night when I told them what I wanted to do, the conversation went like this.

Mark said, “Sounds like a Mom-thing.”

I insisted, “It’s historic.  The next cycle won’t start for another 2,000 years.”

“What time do we have to get up?” he asked suspiciously.

“5:30.  You can sleep in the car.”

“Noooo! Not on our holidays!  I can’t believe you’re making us do this.”

Obviously my cunning repertoire convinced them to go.

Ric's Country Kitchen Doomsday Bash

After we took our photos, Mojo insisted our first meal in the new age be biscuits and bacon at Ric’s Country Kitchen.

“Nooo, we want to go hooooome,” wailed the boys on our deaf ears.

The party streamers and stragglers were cleaned up by the time we arrived.  But the last of the ancient Gods met us, and we toasted the new day with beer.

Enki God of Heaven and Earth and his antelope having a beer with a friend in Ancient Dilmun or Bahrain

Enki God of Heave and Earth and his antelope having a beer with a friend. Dilmun seals found in Bahrain, the ancient Dilmun.

So far, the news from Paradise is the next 2,760 years will be better.

Peace to everyone on earth.

And to the survivalists, you can turn in your semi-automatic weapons now.

Arriving Late for the Jubilee Ball

It’s a fantastic time to visit London.  Everything has been spruced up for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics.

We arrived June 17th, the day after the Big Party.  I made up for missing it by purchasing HELLO Magazine’s Diamond Jubilee souvenir edition.

Through October, you can still enjoy an exhibit of the World’s Most Photographed Woman at the National Portrait Gallery.

A photographic documentary of the last 60 years, the exhibit includes some of the most famous 20th century photographers and artists.   The formal and regal Dorothy Wilding’s and Cecil Beaton’s 1952 coronation portraits to the Sex Pistol’s “God Save the Queen” album cover and Andy Warhol’s graphic re-interpretation of the Queen are all on display.

The exhibit includes American Annie Leibovitz’ 2007 Queen Elizabeth II, Buckingham Palace photo.  This was from the photo shoot which brought about “Queensgate”, a controversy that led to the resignation of the BBC One’s head.  I love this photo.

Leibovitz was given twenty-five minutes to photograph the 80-year old Queen.  All the photos were taken inside the palace.  At the last minute, Leibovitz asked the Queen for a final photo wearing the admiral’s cape but not the tiara.  Her image was digitally placed in the garden photo taken the day before.

I was naughty and took a photo of this great 3-D portrait before the guard swooped down on me and my little friend.

“Madame, you are not allowed to take any photos.”

Really?  It seems I am the first person who is not allowed to take a picture of the Queen.

If you are not in London, you can view the National Portrait Gallery’s 716 photos of the Queen online.

Annie Leibovitz’ other, more formal, photos of the Queen can be seen in her book, Annie Leibovitz At Work.

In this wonderful book, Leibovitz describes photographing Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was a body-builder and not the Governator; working as a photographer for Rolling Stone; and her by-chance opportunities with the aged architect Philip Johnson, writer Irving Penn and artist Agnes Martin.

She took photos of many, many famous people like Nicole Kidman before she had all that work done on her face and Hillary Clinton with short-hair.  Somebody needs to re-send that photo to Hillary.  I think she needs a new hair style.

There is a photo of Carl Lewis taken just before he competed in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics – Yaoo – Za!

Sorry Queen, I got a little distracted.

Where Do You Find Peace In This World?

Driving through a village I saw this on the wall.  It gave me hope.

You shall seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart.

– Jeremiah

Dubai’s Changing Skyline

Dubai Bus Stop with Burj Khalifa in the background

As the sign says

Dubai is

A map that gets updated every day.”

One afternoon, the Burj Khalifa is there and the next morning …

Burj Khalifa blasting off into space. Photo by Mojo in April 2012.

It blasts off to parts unknown.

Touring Oman: Sixth Stop Jabreen Castle

Our final destination was Jabreen Castle.

Afraid he was not going to get a tip, Zaher led us through the castle pointing out the signs on the walls.  The renovated fort/palace/university was built in the 15th century.

Throughout the castle, the rectangular rooms were similar with low windows that opened near the floor and high ceilings that vented outside, naturally cooling the rooms.

The beautiful, recently painted ceilings looked like carpets.  We wove through the maze of rooms.

Hoping we didn’t want to go up, our guide weakly pointed to the upper floors and said “the rooms look the same upstairs.”

“Let’s go,” I said, “you’ll get your exercise.”

The interiors were similar but the views were great.  Eventually we made our way to the highest rooftop that overlooked the valley.  A French TV camera was taking pictures of the Omani flag waving in the wind.

We took the same photo and chatted with the tourists.

An Omani man was lecturing his maid (seen in the first picture at the castle door), his wife holding a newborn and his five children under the age of seven on the palace architecture.  When he saw Goldie and I walk through the doorway, his eyes lit up.  He left his family and made a bee-line to us.  We were the audience he was looking for.   Before we could say salam, he began telling us about the architecture.  Unable to add to the conversation, Zaher sat on the side strumming his fingers.

After a half an hour of his time, we thanked him and he thanked us.  We moved on trying to take artistic photos that might make us famous.

As we left Zaher asked if we needed the ladies room before our hour and a half drive back to Muscat.

We decided to take advantage and were pleased we did.  The restrooms at Jabreen Castle were new, modern and clean.  We told Zaher,

“From now on don’t bother with the hammam in Bahla.  Just bring your clients to the Jabreen Castle.”

We started our drive back to Muscat.

I asked, “What is the difference between the Ibadiyyah and the Sunni and Shiite.”

“There is no difference really.  We are all Muslims.”

“But there must be something different otherwise you would be Sunni.”

“It is mostly how we pray.  We pray like this,” he said taking his hands off the steering wheel, putting his hands together and not moving.  “And they pray like this,” he said moving his hands from chest down to his thighs.  “See little difference, we are all Muslims.”

It didn’t seem like enough difference to make a distinction between the sects.

Zaher said “I am not a good Muslim” and admitted he did not know what the deeper differences were.

At home after doing some research I understood Zaher’s description better.

There is a fundamental difference in how the Ibadi pray – standing up.  There are also some particular doctrinal differences with the Sunni around how Imams are chosen and what happens to fallen Muslims.  Ibadi rejected the Qunut prayer which says:

O’ Allah ! I seek help from You, ask forgiveness from You, and believe in You and praise You for all the good things and are grateful to You and we part and break off with all those who disobedient to You. O Allah, You alone do we worship and pray exclusively to You and bow before You alone and we hasten eagerly towards You and fear Your severe punishment and hope for Your mercy, for Your severe punishment is surely to be meted out to the disbelievers.

My understanding is Ibadi rejected this prayer because it said “we part and break off with all those who (are) disobedient to you” and “Your severe punishment is surely to be meted out to the disbelievers.”

Ibadiyyah practice barā’ah: dissociation (but not hostility) towards unbelievers,sinners, and those destined for Hell.  They believe in wuqūf: reservation towards those whose status is unclear.  This view allows for them to have quiet interaction with others, but not in a way that causes strife or disagreement.  This underlying belief probably explains some of Zaher’s casual “Maybe this or maybe that” attitude.

Zaher admitted he had never even traveled to any other Gulf country so he really didn’t know any Muslims besides the Ibadiyyah.  Like his forefathers, Zaher was isolated – and protected – from the other Gulf countries by the Hajar mountains.

We rode in silence observing the countryside.  There were quite a few newer, two and three story villas near the road.

Zaher pointed out, “these villages are further away, but these houses are moved out.”

I finally understood what he was saying.  The small villages were expanding and we were seeing the new houses being built on the outer circumference.

“What is the population of Muscat today,” I asked thinking about the new roads and houses that seemed to be popping up around the countryside.

“5 million”

“5 million?”  That sounded very high.  I pulled out our guide book.

“Wow,” I said.  “This guidebook was written in 2003.  There were 2.3 million then.  In less than ten years the population has doubled.  That is amazing.  Why are so many people coming to Oman?” I asked.

“Some people they come and some people they go,” he said in his non-committal way.

Later when I checked out Oman’s population, the World Bank’s estimate was 2.78 million in 2010.

Ding, ding, ding.

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